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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Reading Eric and Elise Through the Symbolic Order of Seduction/Challenge/Surprise and Destiny

Rob Pattinson as Eric Packer and  Sarah Gadon as Elise Shifrin in Cosmopolis

Destiny is stalking Eric and Elise. Destiny does not leave it to chance but repeats to make sure. Destiny is of the Symbolic Order of Seduction always paired with challenge, the duel and surprise. In each encounter with Destiny the self divides into a before and after. As time passes the two selves bifurcate and diverge away from each other, farther and farther away. They occupy parallel universes. As Eric and Elise meet and separate all day, each changes as a modified  and different self emerges from the previous encounter with each other. Elise is an apparition as she surprisingly appears and disappears. Apparition is always coupled with disappearance.

Following through (free download) Gradiva-Elise here and here. (earlier posts here)

Continuing through Baudrillard:

He took off his sunglasses , for effect. She gazed into his face. She looked steadily with fixed attention.
Your eyes are blue, she said.

Switching to Nietzsche On the Genealogy of Morals: He lifted her hand and held it to his face, smelling and licking. The Sikh at the wheel was missing a finger. Eric regarded the stub, impressive, a serious thing, a body ruin that carried history and pain.

Eat breakfast yet?

No, she said.

.... You never told me you were blue-eyed.

That face. Even in ten years time, I shall not know the colour of its eyes. But I see it in the street, in my dreams and just beneath the surface of a great number of other faces which suddenly start to resemble it. Baudrillard (Cool Memories, 1980-85b p. 54) :

Friday, May 27, 2011

DeLillo and Baudrillard On Rothko




"Rothko says that his pictures have two characteristics: either they dilate and then open up in all directions, or they contract and then close up precipitately on all sides. Between these two poles lies everything he has to say.

Rothko's change, his passage almost without transition, to an immediate, definitive form. It is there all at once, perfectly mastered, end of story. And it is light-years away from what he was doing up to that point.

This is something entirely different from an evolution - even a creative evolution. It is an almost genetic impulse by which he separates himself miraculously from the artist he still was, with his place in the history of art, to be nothing but the sovereign medium of an extremely simple form, which no longer has anything to do with expressionism or abstraction." (Cool Memories IV 84-85)

The emergent form stuns you with its simplicity. And perhaps the most surprising thing is that, during our earthly existence, in which our brains are bound with bands of steel - the tightly-fitting dream of our own personality - we did not by chance give that little shake which would have freed the imprisoned thought and procured for it the ultimate understanding.(Nabokov)

"Does not everyone have within them this potential mutation, this potential development? This absolute singularity which asks only to be effortlessly produced" (CM IV 85) - an transpired form that has sloughed off our individual yoke?

Didi Fancher: I think you want this Rothko. Pricey. But yes. You totally need to have it.

Eric: Why?

Didi: It will remind you that you're alive. You have  something in you that's receptive to the mysteries.

Eric: The mysteries?

Didi: Don't you see yourself in every picture you love? You feel a radiance wash through you. It's something you can't analyze or speak about clearly. ... But it makes you feel alive in the world. It tells you you're here. And yes, you have a range of being that's deeper and sweeter than you knew.(C 30)
If you look awhile at a Rothko and then look at a white wall, you will see a negative after-image. An inversion of color, so I have left white beside these images so you can do it.  Then when you see a real one, try it.

Other Rothko blog of mine

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Was DeLillo Reading Baudrillard? He Won't Say Anything About Post Modernism When Asked.

 DeLillo is smart enough not to fall into the trap of putting himself in the box of post-modernism which is a floppy box at best. Even Baudrillard steered away from that.

The grid in NYC that Packer is trying to get through is no different than a Foucauldian grid of power/knowledge,capital that we all exist in. Until we don't. In Forget Foucault Baudrillard accepts all of Foucault and then disappears this grid Foucault analyzes power within. He says that it is over and we are somewhere else. Perhaps in the stage he calls Paroxysm, the moment just before the end. Maybe just the moment after the end before simulation. Vija is Baudrillard in this novel, almost. She says it will all be over when the limos are gone. By the end of the day Packer's limo is pretty much gone, the thought of even trying to go crosstown ever again in his old life is not an option. Early in the day he talks about a heliport so we know he is thinking about a helicopter. The grid of streets in the city is impassible on a daily basis. DeLillo is saying the grid is gone. Foucault is over as theory, although Foucault said his work was a toolkit, not a theory.  DeLillo is disappearing it within the metaphor of NYC traffic. There is no one in charge on this last day of Packer's life. Read  this as  no power around. Eric Packer has only his bodyguards to protect him.

And Rob Pattinson has only his bodyguards to protect him. And Kristen Stewart felt terrorized in Australia with the New Moon publicity car show. The fictional Eric Packer and real people are now obvious hostages. But all of us are without identifying our plight as such.

Buadrillard outright states that capitalism is evll. He defines evil not as banal as Hannah Arendt defines it, but as he does in The Transparency of Evil. When the dialectics have disappeared, good and evil are no longer oppositional, and are indistinguishable from each other, then that is evil, the transparency of evil. In this we are approaching Catharism and Manicheanism, the great heresies of the Roman Catholic Church, that the world is created evil. Only man can redeem himself by transcendence. Man cannot redeem the world.


When Eric Packer sees The Burning Man he thinks Vija is wrong. What has happened is that The Burning Man is of the Symbolic Order of Sacrificial Death. Vija is still thinking in the Order of Production but she is pulling at her mole as she tries to integrate The Burning man in her thinking, but then sums him up as unoriginal. So see my blog lower down of Jesus and his unoriginality, which changed the world BTW in case you hadn't noticed.

And it is exactly at this point that Eric Packer borrows yen in dumbfounding amounts. Switching to Lacan, the more yen Eric wants, the more yen Eric borrows, the more yen Eric experiences for the world. He is exploding with hunger.

OK I'll stop for awhile now. And all this is not the same as Edward Cullen's longing.And we can read the Rothko scene with Didi Fancher through Baudrillard. Tonight?


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Reading Eric Packer As DeLillo's Political Visionary Prophet

Warning to Rob Pattinson: Stop knocking my Eric Packer in interviews about CosmopolisI am doing my best to counteract  the inundation of bourgeois, mainstream, run-of-the-mill interpretations, academic sound bites, etc. of Packer. Stop adding to them. Although this may be the way DeLillo is concealing and revealing Packer. Hmmmmm. Hadn't thought of that until right now.

Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo
The link goes to a bunch of mostly shitty reviews at Amazon.  In The New York Times Michiko Kakutani writes that the novel amounts to the story of a comic strip capitalist pig whose crosstown trip to the barber turns out to be a long day's journey into tedium that is marred by flat, tired dialogue and the sort of rote recitation of status  items found in 'Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous' (Kakutani E-10). The academics see Packer as a self-destructive loser who pisses away all his billions in one day. 

Marc Schuster comes very close as he comments on Eric Packer's horror at the sight of the Burning Man is in line with Baudrillard's position in Symbolic Exchange and Death that a suicidal act of protest can amount to defying the system with a gift to which it cannot respond save by its own collapse and death, in order to save face(37). Schuster, however, does not connect Eric's act of numerical implosion with Baudrillard's theory of implosion. Baudrillard's aim is to disappear theory, and Eric's act does just that. It is  theory no more. DeLillo has won the game using Baudrillard's technique in killing Foucault. So close to eXistenZ here.

Conte in Duvall employs a great deal of convoluted interpretation, which is fascinating BTW, focusing on the narrative of terrorism DeLillo put forth in his In the Ruins of the Future (Harper's December 2001). Conte, reading through The Spirit of Terrorism, says that Baudrillard again provides insight into how in a chaotic and asymmetrical warfare the dominant system can be induced to self-destruct.  He is so close here, but then he immediately says after that:

Packer has committed suicide rather than fallen victim to an assassination plot. Then a few paragraphs further down, Packer is a financial Icarus in meltdown, too  prideful to admit miscalculation (Duvall 190)

Conte in Duvall,  In Cosmopolis Packer possesses an almost preternatural ability to recognize the patterns in currency values that shift in nanoseconds and cyber-capital that is traded instantaneously on the Nikkei and Nasdaq markets. He assumes the hieratic role of the prophet.

Dagnabbit! He almost had it, by god, he almost had it. 

Since I am way out of the Literary Discourse on Cosmopolis I will again read this following Jean Baudrillard: On credibility in the media
You launch a news item. So long as it has not been denied, it is plausible. Barring accidents, it will never be denied in real time. Even if it is denied later, it will never again be absolutely false, since it has once enjoyed credibility. Unlike truth, credibility cannot be refuted, since it is virtual.... Truth is not dead: it has become viral and elusive... (Paroxysm 73)
Like when you say something and it is twisted. Or someone attributes your saying something you didn't say or takes it out of context. Or just makes it up. Or takes a pic of you going to the store and before you get there your pic is global - viral. This is what is happening to the character of Eric Packer. Why? Because he is dangerous. In fact in this time of paranoia and economic crisis it seems more prudent for academics to lay a bit low on Packer's lethal act.

So attuned is Packer to the future that he repeatedly literalizes the rhetorical trope known as hysteron proteron, that is, as he scans the several digital monitors mounted to his limousine, he experiences an effect before its cause. On my first reading I remember thinking of an inverted deja-vu. (Conte in Duvall)

Baudrillard has much to say on the error of thinking in terms of cause and effect, the present Scientific Discourse already discarded by physics, but still the mainstay of the human sciences. He says that effects lead causes, and we use precession to give it meaning. Usually the slant that we are most inclined to favor ourselves. Foucault has already put this baby to bed in The Order of ThingsThe Archeology of Knowledge and in his College de France Lectures-Abnormal in 1974.

The Baudrillardian Double is so perfectAaaaghhh! What's a blogger to do!! Well more on the Double in another posting.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Reading Eric Packer through Baudrillard and the Double-continued

Eric Packer

Eric Packer

Eric watched himself on the oval screen below the spycam, running his thumb along his chinline. The car stopped and moved and he realized queerly that he'd just placed his thumb along his chinline a second or two after he'd seen it on screen.

Then why am I seeing things that haven't happened yet? (C 22)

His own image caught his eye, live on the screen beneath the spycam. Some seconds passed. He saw himself recoil in shock. More time passed. He felt suspended, waiting. Then there was a detonation, loud and deep, near enough to consume all the information around him. He recoiled in shock. Everyone did. The phrase was part of the gesture, the familiar expression, embodied in the motion of the head and limbs. He recoiled in shock.The phrase reverberated in the body.(C 93-94)

Between these two scenes of his screen Double there is a lengthening of seconds between the first and second noticed occurrences. Destiny has been arranging things for Eric Packer. Each time Destiny intervenes the Double diverges in time.

Eric Packer is following his Double. Which one is the original? The one on the screen or the one following the one on the screen? The Double is present from birth leading a parallel life with the historical life. (Life is what happens to you as you are carrying out your plans.- John Lennon) They will meet again at Death.
Kendra wears a sinuous skin of body armor. It is stab resistant and Eric has her wear it during sex. This is what Elise means by indifference and that she can't master it.  Eric thinks that at some level she would never be naked. Kendra has a stun gun.

Eric: How many volts at your disposal?
Kendra: One hundred thousand. Jam your nervous system. Drop you to your knees.
Eric: Stun me. I mean it. Draw the gun and shoot. I want you to do it, Kendra. Show me what it feels like. I'm looking for more. Show me something I don't know. Stun me to my DNA. Come on, do it. Click the switch. Aim and fire. I want all the volts the weapon holds. Do it. Shoot it. Now. (C 114-115)

.... He sat in the car borrowing yen and watching his fund's numbers sink into  the mist on several screens.... The yen spree was releasing Eric from the influence of his neocortex. He felt even freer than usual.... The stun gun probably helped. The voltage had jellified his musculature for ten or fifteen minutes....But he could think well enough now, well enough to understand what was happening. There were currencies tumbling everywhere. Bank failures were spreading. .... Strategists could not explain the speed and depth of the fall. They opened their mouths and words came out. He knew it was the yen. His actions regarding the yen were causing storms of disorder. He was so leveraged, his firm's portfolio large and sprawling, linked crucially to the affairs of so many key institutions, all reciprocally vulnerable, that the whole system was in danger.... He smoked and watched, feeling strong, proud, stupid and superior. (C 115-116)

The stun gun. A near death experience divides the Doubles in time. They keep diverging. The one that maybe died from the one that is living. Growing farther and farther apart. Until the moment of death when they will merge.

the extermination of the real by its double in “the perfect crime” (1996, 1-7).

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Reading Eric Packer Through Baudrillard and Jesus

Samantha Morton as Vija Kinski
It was exhilarating ....to realize they'd been reading the same poetry he'd been reading.

He sat down long enough to take a web phone out of a slot and execute an order for more yen. He borrowed yen in dumbfounding amounts. He wanted all the yen there was. (C 97)

Here DeLillo follows Baudrillard who is following Marcuse who uses the metaphor of Pac-Man to describe the market's ability to absorb. Baudrillard labels it Deterrence, a balancing act.

Kinski was right....There was a shadow of transaction between the demonstrators and the state. The protest was a form of systemic hygiene, purging and lubricating. It attested again, for the ten thousandth time, to the market culture's innovative brilliance, its ability to shape itself to its own flexible ends, absorbing everything around it. (C 99)

The act of the Burning Man occurs.

What did this change? Everything, he thought. Kinski had been wrong. The market was not total. It could not claim this man or assimilate his act. Not such starkness and horror. This was a thing outside its reach.(C 99-100)  This is in the Order of Symbolic Exchange: Death as Impossible Exchange.

I would like to commemorate Kathy Change (Kathleen Chang) here, a performance artist and peace activist who immolated herself on the University of Pennsylvania campus on October 22, 1996. She was a lovely person who burned herself to death by the Peace sign on campus.

Vija: It's not original.
Eric: Hey, What's original. He did it didn't he?
Vija: It's an appropriation.
Eric: He poured the gasoline and lit the match.
Vija: All those Vietnamese monks, one after the another, in all their lotus positions.
Eric: Imagine the pain. Sit there and feel it.
Vija: Immolating themselves endlessly.
Eric: To make people think.
Vija: It's not original.

An original story?
The crucifixion of Jesus is neither especially original. Of suffering executed and resurrected god men in Antiquity we can list for example Herakles, Tammuz, Adonis, Attis, Osiris, Baal (Bel-Marduk), Mithra, Zarathustra, Odin (Wodan), Dionysos and Buddha.

Torval reports on the specific threat. Vija is delighted, Eric ...felt defined, etched sharply. He felt a burst of self-realization that heightened and clarified....It was twilight, only dimmer....He didn't know how long it was since he'd felt so good.... with the currency ticker restored to normal function, the yen showed renewed strength, advancing against the dollar in microdecimal increments every sextillionth of a second. This was good. This was fine and right. ....to see prices spiral into lubricious plunge. (C 102-106)

It is the terrorist model to bring about an excess of reality, and have the system collapse beneath that excess. - Baudrillard

Jesus  seems to fit this definition of terrorist. So does Eric Packer.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Graph of Yen To Buy 1 US Dollar: Money Changers In The Temples of the World

Japanese Yens to 1 US Dollar
This graph is in linear, read historical, time. The dialectic is in play. As the Yen goes up, the dollar goes down. Eric Packer is not observing the Yen in this format. He is watching numbers scroll across a screen, a flat screen, but never flat enough. He watches for patterns that mime the patterns of different processes in nature: cicadas, grasshoppers, perhaps wave theory or other mathematical formulations. But still the natural processes occur in linear time. In linear time what goes up must come down.

Throughout the day Eric Packer will become aware that he is in virtual reality, real time. The numbers are circulating globally. They are not necessarily moving up and down. In fact the Yen keeps going up. It is going beyond its resistance levels. If you look at the graph you can draw a line crossing the highest peak and the lowest peak. In a given amount of time this is a resistance level. The Yen moves but does not break the resistance line. Except when it does. And then there is a break out or a break down. But on this day in April, Eric Packer, the currency trader, the money changer, watches the Yen go up, then continue up and continue up.

This graph is current as of May 15 2011. About 3/4 of the way from February 25 to March 28 the Yen dropped to 79 Yen to buy 1 dollar. Between March 28 and April 26 it took around 85 Yen to buy one dollar. So if you bought Yen at 79 to 1 dollar and sold the same Yen between March 28 and April 26 you would have made 6+ Yen on each dollar. 1 thousand dollars would have bought 79,000 Yen and then when you sold you would have made 6,000 Yen gross minus expenses of trading.

It charts, he says. Over and over. It charts.  Only it doesn't. The more he borrows the higher it goes. Surely traders are watching Packer Capital and following him, copying his trades. If Packer Capital is borrowing, he must know something. The more people copy him and borrow Yen, the higher it goes. So the more money changers are going to be driven from the temple of Wall Street and the exchange temples all over the world. Untold numbers of them will go broke.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Reading Eric Packer Through Baudrillard and the Double

Of all the prostheses that punctuate the history of the body, the double is doubtless the most ancient. The double, however, is not properly speaking a prosthesis at all. Rather it is an imaginary figure, like the soul, the shadow or the mirror image, which haunts the subject as his 'other', causing him to be himself while at the same time never seeming like himself. The double haunts the subject like a subtle death, a death forever being conjured away. Things are not always like this, however - for then the double materializes, when it becomes visible, it signifies imminent death. (The Transparency of Evil 113)

... the historical advent of the "soul" ... gives rise to another figure of the double, wending its diabolical way just beneath the surface of Western reason. Once again this figure has everything to do with the Western figure of alienation, and nothing to do with the primitive double. The telescoping of the two under the sign of psychology (conscious or unconscious) is only a misleading rewriting....Historically then, alienation begins with the internalization of the Master by the emancipated slave: there is no alienation as long as  the duel-relation of the master and slave lasts.

And this is where Eric Packer is when he didn't know what he wanted. Fretting over the yen and unable to sleep, Packer has internalized the Master and now Master and slave are one. This is the state most of us are in in our relation with the will.  Willing and resistance to willing.

The primitive has a non-alienated duel-relation with his double. He really can trade....with his shadow as with some original, living thing, in order to converse, protect and conciliate this...hostile shadow....it has a full part to play, and consequently is not an "alienated" part of the subject, but one of the figures of exchange. (Symbolic Exchange And Death 140-141)

The status of the double...in primitive society is therefore the inverse of our alienation...

With the internalization of the "soul" and consciousness... the subject undergoes a real confinement.... It is at this point that the primitive thought of the double  as continuity and exchange is lost, and the haunting double comes to the fore...." Whoever sees his double, sees his death." ...the double begins to prefigure the subject's death, haunting him in the very midst of his life. This is Dostoievsky's double,....Our entire culture is full of this haunting of the separated double, even in its most subtle form, as Freud gave it in "Das Unheimliche" ("The Uncanny: Disturbing Strangeness or Disturbing Familiarity"): the anxiety that wells up around the most familiar things. Here the "vertigo of separation" builds up to its greatest intensity, since this is its simplest form. There comes a moment in fact, when the things closest to us, such as our own bodies, the body itself, our voice and appearance, are separated from us to the precise extent that we internalize the soul.

By a final ruse of spirituality, this internalization also "psychologises" doubles. In fact it is interpretation in terms of an archaic "psychical apparatus" that is the very last form of the "Verteufelung", the demonic corruption and elimination of the primitive double:...(SEAD 142)

Much more to come.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Forget Foucault! Forget Baudrillard! DeLillo Weighs In and Wins the Game!

Michel Foucault

Sylvere Lotringer
Michel Foucault

Jean Baudrillard
Don DeLillo
Anyone who has spent serious time with all of Foucault's ouevre will feel that their brain has been scrubbed clean of trivia and useless baggage. You never want to leave off reading him and I didn't even want to read anything criticizing him. If I read an academic who was writing about him, their style of interpretation stopped me. I had gone beyond endless interpretation, searching for origins and secret meanings into an endless depth that had no end. Nor was I interested anymore in extending towards a horizon that kept receding the closer I got.

Forget Foucault I read after nothing but Foucault for over one year. It was a revelation. Baudrillard never argues, disputes, interprets, spins, none of that stuff at all. As Lotringer says to him in Forget Baudrillard that he proves every one of Foucault's hypotheses and makes Foucault the revolutionary he never dreamed of being. 

IMO Delillo does the same to Baudrillard in his Cosmopolis novel. The essential difference between Baudrillard and DeLillo is that of the transcendence of the narrative or narrative transcendence. DeLillo believes in human spiritual transcendence and that of the artist, the writer in particular; whereas, Baudrillard, following Foucauldian genealogy does not. DeLillo puts the challenge to Baudrillard with Eric Packer and wins the game. He proves Baudrillardian theory from start to finish. Eric moves through dialectical thinking into simulation, then following seduction and challenge and destiny to his world willed death. DeLillo has been criticized for not drawing a truly politically challenging character. Eric Packer is his answer to that. And so subtle is he that no reviewer or academic even noticed.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Money Changers In The Temple-Eric Packer Is A Currency Trader-Currency Traders Are Money Changers

Jesus Chasing the Money Changers From the Temple-El Greco

In the High Renaissance, a figure's turn, the pose called contrapposto, stood for balance, depth, and human perfection. El Greco exaggerates Jesus's twisted, elongated body to all but a parody. For Michelangelo, as in tradition, Jesus's right hand pointed to the saved, his left to the damned. (When it comes to godhead, lefties need not apply.) El Greco has it all backward. He sees salvation as if through a clouded mirror.

Even sorting left from right takes work. The crowd swirls around Jesus. A dealer at left, among the bad guys and bending to salvage the burden of his trade, has the youthful strength and perfect foreshortening of a hero. More confusing still, he leans into one version of the painting, his back to the viewer, obscuring his pose and flaunting his butt. On Jesus's good side, Temple elders kneel, not in praise of God but to debate the outcome in puzzlement. It may serve as a reminder that they did not necessarily prove supportive.

Strangest of all, one may well leave remembering none of this. At the far, far right, away from it all, a young woman weaves forward, alone, her basket poised delicately above her head. Behind her the Temple arcade lies almost empty. Do her downcast eyes stand for modesty and virtue, the side of the saved? Does she represent all that Jesus condemned, when he "would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple"? Or does a whole world still go on, all that fuss an overwrought performance, like last year's summer blockbuster?

The work's asymmetry—its twin vistas of packed bodies and empty space, of sky and Temple—rip apart any Renaissance ideal of balance and perspective. Paintings this wild, one might think, come once in a lifetime. Michelangelo alone passed through enough stylistic changes to fuel art for decades. He left copies to assistants, if that, and moved on. Better think again. El Greco repeats almost the same composition half a dozen times or more over the course of some forty years—and it is anyone's guess why. (Link in title of painting above for the entire review.)

Because this act of Jesus is an EVENT! It is not of linear time and history. It is an unprecented irruption, an unpredicted occurrence. An Event comes from elsewhere. It is singular, unanticipated. El Greco is painting an Event. And he meditates on it for 40 years. That is the meaning of contemplation which requires time, slow time, not clock time.
Gustave Dore
El Greco


VALENTIN de Boulogne

El Greco
VALENTIN de Boulogne

These are samples. Follow the links for 4 pages of them.

DeLillo has orchestrated Eric Packer's Act as an EVENT! And as a dream worthy of a Freudian essay. Packer is both subject and object as he vanishes numbers referring to capital. Packer Capital is a hedge fund speculating in global circulating capital. Eric Packer is borrowing yen in huge amounts to buy stocks, commodities, whatever, that are expected to rise in value. The amount borrowed will be paid back at a lower rate. He hopes. The yen can only go so high. But it keeps going higher. By throwing the billions of capital of Packer Capital at the yen, he has disappeared the capital and fortune of the people who invested with him as well as his own. He has driven the money changers and thieves from the temple. Jesus didn't get all the temples. Packer doesn't get everyone but he does crash the money supply.

Let's say I bet the yen is going to go down - called shorting the yen -  I "sell" yen worth 10 to 1 dollar. If the yen drops in value - relative to the dollar -  over time, then when I buy back  the yen at the lower rate the money I have made is the difference between the rate I ''sold" and the rate I "paid". You are "selling" without having the yen, but you promise delivery at a time in the future when you buy your yen cheaper. So you have sold high, and bought low. This is what hedge funds do. They speculate. They gamble.

Now if in the time of Jesus a money changer changed currency at a certain rate and by the next day  the currencies he had as capital for money changing changed in value, he would have less-or more maybe- capital to work with. They are gambling. This is what they were doing in the temple when Jesus drove them out. And this action of Christ was the final straw leading to his death. Looking for causes always. Speculating on currency is in the Order of Production. This was being carried out in a sacred place, defiling it.

This is what DeLillo has Eric Packer do when the world wills him. Drive the yen so high that all other currencies implode to nothing. You see gas prices at the pump are not going up.

The dollar is going down. But the assassination of Osama Bin Laden has made the dollar stronger. Read that as the US image. So gas prices at the pump are dropping. The image of the US has been strengthened. All smoke and mirrors.

Eric Packer has been described as self-destructive, impulsive, a loser, a gambler, etc. Well, I guess we could describe Jesus in similar terms, couldn't we?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Problem of the Will: He Didn't Know What He Wanted.

Hannah Arendt On Revolution
The Origins of Totalitarianism
On Violence

He was reading the Special Theory tonight, in English and German, but put the book aside, finally, and lay completely still, trying to summon the will to speak the single word that would turn off the lights. (C 6)

Our first indication of Eric Packer's problem with the will. His will.

He didn't know what he wanted. Then he knew. He wanted to get a haircut. (c 7)

Arendt discusses the will in On Revolution, I believe. (All her books are to be read by anyone wanting to understand philosophy, politics and the human condition so here they are linked to amazon.com.)  In her writing on the will she clarifies the will, as she does everything she writes about. When you will something or anything, immediately the resistance to acting comes into existence, into play, into awareness. All smokers who have ever thought about quitting understand this right away. This is why it is so difficult to quit. You enter into conflict with yourself.

Eric Packer cannot even will the word to turn off the lights. He doesn't know what he wants. Then after seeing into the gull, focussing and really seeing into it, he knows what he wants. He wants a haircut. Desire does not exist for Packer as he does not experience lack. Wanting the haircut feels more than just a yen.  ( my blog on Lacan) And following Lacan, desire/lack are always coupled. Eric Packer lacks nothing. He has everything in excess as Marc Schuster indicates in his book, which is the most accessible of all the books on Baudrillard and DeLillo, as he reads through each author to illuminate the other, back and forth, back and forth. What I constantly do.

Marc Schuster - at Amazon

Jean Baudrillard tackles the problem of the will in his always singular fashion. He turns it on its head.

The point is - above and beyond all the categories of willing, knowing and believing - to discover a parting of destinies and a strategy of otherness, whether in this plurality of collusive, parallel universes or in any form which alters the individual being which displaces, metabolizes, metamorphoses or captivates him. On this tack, one may, paradoxically, simply let things happen: let the other will, know, decide or desire. This is not a form of defeating desire, but of sidestepping or outwitting it, of ironically investing the other. A more seductive, more effective stratagem than that of the will. A more powerful strategy than that of desire: playing with desire.
Impossible Exchange at Amazon

In this way one can offload one's will, one's desire, on to someone else and, in return, become free to take on responsibility for someone else's life. A symbolic circulation of affects and destinies is created, a cycle of alterity - beyond alienation and all the individual psychology in which we are trapped. There is in this symbolic circulation, in this sharing of destinies, the essence of a subtler freedom than the individual liberty to make up one's mind according to one's conscience - a liberty which ultimately we do not know what to do with, and which it is, in fact, better to slough off right away, in order to recover the impersonal concatenation of signs, events, affects and passions.

....by a straight transference on to the desire or will of another. ( Impossible Exchange 84-85 )
To make a pact with chance is not to speculate on random events, but to attune oneself to the world, to explore its secret connections and concatenations; it is, in a sense, to be initiated.

Nothing is accidental anymore, since, from the point when the world thinks us, things follow in a sure progression. Nor is anything intentional, a matter of will, since, in a sense, everything has already been willed.  ( IE 87-88 )

  • He didn't wonder who Nancy Babich was and he didn't think that Torval's choice of code humanized the man or required delayed regret. Torval was his enemy, a threat to his self-regard. When you pay a man to keep you alive, he gains a psychic edge. It was a function of the credible threat and the loss of his company and personal fortune that Eric could express himself this way. Torval's passing cleared the night for deeper confrontation.
    (C 147)

    Leave everything and follow me He said. Where your treasure is, there is your heart.

    Eric is no longer a hostage. Now the world can will and think him.

  • abbeysbooksCollapse
    He tossed his weapon in the bushes because he wanted whatever would happen to happen. Guns were small practical things. He wanted to trust the power of predetermined events. The act was done, the gun should go.(C 147)

    The world is willing Eric Packer. He is choosing the Order of Seduction, destiny.

As the ancient Chinese sage said: It isn't the man who drinks the tea, it's the tea which drinks the man. 
( IE 89 from Ceronetti )

And hasn't Rob Pattinson done exactly this.

It's Kristen who chose me.
It's the elephant who chose me.
It's Cronenberg who chose me.

And hasn't he taken responsibility for many of his friends and their careers? And hasn't he taken on responsibility for the life of Bear? And now that abuse of Tai has come out, his affection for her is weighing in on her abuse.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Reading Elise Through Gradiva In Hades: Orpheus and Eurydice

Spencer Tunick Installation in Montreal (Montreal 1)
I have changed the photo into black and white as that is the way Eric Packer sees it in his mind when he closes his eyes.  Like an old timey noir film.

Reading through Gradiva and the last meeting between Zoe-Gradiva and Norbert Hanold which takes place at the Villa of Diomede:

A real Hades:
....a very extensive building and concealed within itself a part of the history of the destruction of Pompeii not invented by imagination. A confusion of extensive ruins formed the upper part; below lay an unusually large sunken garden surrounded by a well preserved portico of pillars with scanty remnants of a fountain and a small temple i the middle; and farther along two stairways led down to a circular cellar-vault, lighted only dimly by gloomy twilight. The ashes of Vesuvius had penetrated into this also and the skeletons of eighteen women and children had been found here;...and the deceptive refuge had become the tomb of all.

.....the place of refuge best suited to his newest mental needs. These longed most insistently for gravelike loneliness, breathless silence, .....so he had been wandering around through the portico since his entrance; 

Still feeling mad and disoriented concerning Zoe-Gradiva he notices it is growing darker and darker around him. And sees high up on a stone ruin, Gradiva. About to run...he involuntarily gave up the attempt to get away, stood there, helpless, and looked at the two feet, which now, as if somewhat impatient, were swinging back and forth; 

Zoe-Gradiva then tells him it is she, his neighbor and former childhood playmate. she tells him she found him intolerable when he developed his passion for archeology and his indifference to her.

"...But that your head harbored an imagination so magnificent as here in Pompeii to consider me something excavated and restored to life__I had not surmised that of you...and, in spite of its madness, it was not entirely displeasing to me. For, as I said, I had not expected it of you."

He then goes into a long description of what she is wearing, the folds, the material, the cashmere scarf, her extraordinary appearance. And then says,

"Yes, now I recognize_no, you have not changed at all_it is you, Zoe_my good, happy, clever comrade_it is most strange_" 

"That a person must die to become alive again; but for archeologists that is of course necessary."

Then he discusses the etymology of her name which has the same meaning as Gradiva signifying the one splendid in walking.

And then she tells him how they are going to convince her father of their betrothal. so all ends in marriage, family and a normal life.
The last scene with Eric Packer and Elise begins in the dark among naked bodies piled up for a film shoot.

He felt the presence of the bodies, all of them, the body breath, the heat and running blood, people unlike each other who were now alike, amassed, heaped in a way, alive and dead together. .....but the experience was a strong one, so total and open he could barely think outside it...

"Hello," someone said.

It was the person nearest him, a woman lying facedown, an arm extended, palm turned up.

"Are we supposed to be dead?"

"I don't know," he said.

Nobody told us. I'm frustrated by that."

"Be dead then.".....

"I assumed an awkward pose intentionally. Whatever has happened to us, I thought, probably happened without warning and I wanted to reflect that by individualizing my character. One entire arm is twisted painfully. But I wouldn't feel right if I changed position. Someone said that the financing had collapsed. Happened in seconds apparently. Money all gone.  This is the last scene they're shootig before they suspend indefinitely. So there's no excuse for self-indulgence, is there?"

Didn't Elise have sorrel hair?.....If this was Elise, wouldn't she react to the sound of her husband's voice? But then why would she? It was not an interesting thing to do.

"But I suspect we're not actually dead. Unless we're a cult," she said, "involved in a mass suicide, which I truly hope is not the case."

They call for stillness and silence ......he saw the clustered bodies as the camera did, coldly. Were they pretending to be naked or were they naked? It was no longer clear to him. They were many shades of skin color but he saw them in black-and-white and he didn't know why. Maybe a scene such as this needed somber monochrome.

It tore his mind apart trying to see them here and real, independent of the image on a screen in Oslo or Caracas. ...But why ask these questions? Why see these things?  They isolated him. They set him apart and this is not what he wanted. He wanted to be here among them, all-body, the tattoed, the hairy-assed, those who stank. ...He wanted to look around but did not open his eyes until a long moment passed and a man's soft voice called, "Cut."

He took one step and extended an arm behind him. He felt her hand in his. She followed him into the boarded off section of sidewalk, where he turned in the dark and kissed her, saying her name. She climbed his body and wrapped her legs around him and they made love there...

And here we have the resonance with Orpheus and with Eurydice being led out from Hades. And like Orpheus, Eric Packer turns to her in the dark kissing her.

....The instant he knew he loved her, she slipped down his body and out of his arms. ....She was the lone stroke of motion.....and she was cool and silvery slim and walking head high with technical precision...she would find her clothes, dress quickly and disappear. Into the dark, like Eurydice. (C 178)

John and Yoko

Disappearing all Elise's money into the void: Let it all come down. Let them see each other pure and lorn....Let them see each other clean, in killing light.(C 124)

If the film and the daydream are in more direct competition than the film and the dream, if they ceaselessly encroach upon each other, it is because they occur at a point of adaptation to reality – or at a point of regression, to look at it from the other direction – which is nearly the same; it is because they occur at the same moment: the dream belongs to childhood and the night; the film and the daydream are more adult and belong to the day, but not midday – to the evening, rather.[3]

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Reading Elise Through "Gradiva"

Gradiva from Pompeii
Jensen's Gradiva 1903 Google Books PDF

The Grid of Eric Packer's Journey April 2000
Had not Freud interpreted Gradiva it probably would have sunk into oblivion. It is didactic in style and yet a lovely fantasy. The bas-relief comes from the ruins of Pompeii on that day in 79 AD when the volcano Vesuvius erupted and buried the city and all its people.

Freud's Interpretation of Jensen's Gradiva-Summary of Gradiva at Wiki
Norbert Hanold is following Gradiva in Pompeii. He is convinced she is an apparition of his imagination  . She keeps disappearing before his eyes and he traces her to the House of Meleager, a Greek poet who lived 2000 years ago, where now antiquities are being sold. He keeps getting glimpses of her in the labyrinth of rooms and finds her sitting on the stairs with a papyrus in her lap. It is lunchtime. He is convinced she is a figment of his imagination, a hallucination. She "plays" with him telling him not to speak Latin that he must speak German. She promises to meet him the next day. He is obsessively consumed.

Eric follows Elise through the maze of rooms in The Gotham Book Mart where he goes to peruse poetry books. He catches glimpses of an unknown woman that he follows through the labyrinth of rooms. He finds Elise sitting on the stairs with a book in her lap. Eric talks to her and then takes her to lunch.

Eric Packer is paying attention to what Elise is wearing. Her shoes. A cashmere sweater. Gradiva wears a cashmere shawl. Gradiva - Zoe holds her head high and slightly forward on her slender neck. Elise is described in the same way. They both  walk lightly away, as they disappear.

Elise is Eric Packer's wife of 22 days. The moon is in the 22nd day of its cycle. Eric and Elise have had sex. Elise's seduction of Eric Packer begins after the consummation. Eric is seducing Elise with his constant talk of sex, with wanting her immediately, with suggesting they do it in the bathroom, in the alley indicating his lust for her, not a perfunctory conjugal embrace.

Gradiva (Zoe) is seducing Norbert with her elusiveness and he has been seducing her with his amazing fantasy that she is Gradiva, whom he has sought after a dream of her, when she is really the neighbor Zoe whom he never notices, but  has known since childhood when they were inseparable playmates. With the death of his parents the wealthy Norbert Hanold has been so completely consumed with his research (Eric with his nightly studies and fabulous financial empire) in classical archeology that Zoe stopped existing for him. He has displaced his affection for her with his obsession for Gradiva, which greatly intensified with his dream of her. They both have the same way of walking very lightly, the foot pointed toe down perpendicular to the ground.

Norbert Hanold and Eric Packer are shadowing Zoe and Elise. Norbert is convinced Gradiva-Zoe is not real and Eric is never sure that it is Elise until he catches up with her. They both have only glimpses to follow. And there are many similarities as DeLillo creates a dream scene in a dying metropolis doomed to ruin resonating with the excavated relic of the catastrophically destroyed Pompeii.

The resonances continue. To be continued.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Elise Shifrin: Reading Elise Through the Little Prince

The Little Prince-Katherine Woods Translation

Elise has been described by Rob Pattinson fans as cold, frigid, aloof, asexual, and, well, you get the idea. I am following The Little Prince in reading her. She appears out of nowhere it seems all day long. If you go to the blog that has the map on it you will see that she is always ahead of Eric Packer, her husband of 22 days. In other words, he is her shadow, he is following her all day long. She appears and disappears and this occurs in a sharp cut in continuity, connected with breakfast, lunch and dinner and then..... It is non-linear, non progressive, non historical. In other words, discontinuous.

The Little Prince also appears out of nowhere. The pilot has landed in the desert with engine trouble. His airplane will not start and if he can't fix it he will die in the desert.  The Little Prince begins to ask questions and make his demands. And he tells the pilot about the tiny planet he lives on. On sad days he can keep moving his chair and see the sunset over and over all day long.

"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."

Another always-to-be-remembered example of a passage from Woods' translation dealing with the interaction of the little prince and the fox. When the little prince has to say goodbye to the fox, the fox says, "Ah, I shall cry."

"It's your own fault," said the little prince. "I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you..."
"Yes, that is so," said the fox.
"But now you are going to cry!" said the little prince.
"Yes, that is so," said the fox.
"Then it has done you no good at all!"
"It has done me good," said the fox, "because of the color of the wheat fields."

Before the little prince tamed the fox, the wheat field had "nothing to say to" the fox. "But," he had said to the little prince, "you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat..." 

Finding her in the bookstore Eric takes her to lunch.

Eric: You were one of those silent wistful children. Glued to the shadows.

Elise: And you?

Eric: I don't know. I don't think about it.

Elise: Think about one thing and tell me what it was.

Eric: All right. One thing. When I was four, I figured out how much I'd weigh on each of the planets in the solar system.

Elise: That's nice. Oh I like that. And she laughed lingeringly.

And then Eric Packer returns to matters of consequence: sex. The circulating rats come in here for the first time.

At dinner Eric talks about wanting sex and what she is wearing and noticing her mood.

Elise: I'll tell you what the problem is. I don't know how to be indifferent. I can't master this. And it makes me susceptible to pain. In other words, it hurts.

And, "Look. I married you for your beauty but you don't have to be beautiful................."

 I just have to be indifferent.

He smells of sex. And she cannot be indifferent.

And after they have had sex and he has told her he lost all her money,

Elise: What do poets know about money? Love the world and trace it in a line of verse. Nothing but this. And this. And she begins to kiss him passionately. And then he knows he loves her and at that instant she slides down his body and disappears.

And another time I will read Elise through Gradiva.